Biotechnology industry registers record growth

Biotechnology industry registers record growth

In 2020, the German biotechnology sector grew faster than it has in years. According to the sector association of the biotechnology industry BIO Deutschland, the 710 local companies generated sales of almost 6.5 billion euros. The industry stars BioNTech and CureVac were the main contributors.

Umsatzentwicklung Biotechnologie-Branche in Deutschland
Record growth in the German biotech sector: sales (blue bars) and company spending on research and development (green line) increased strongly in the pandemic year 2020.

Biotechnologically produced vaccines are currently the hot topic in the fight against the Corona pandemic. And with the mRNA vaccine manufacturers BioNTech and CureVac, two German companies have abruptly advanced to become global stars of the biotechnology industry in 2020. However, it is not only the success of the two vaccine manufacturers from Mainz and Tübingen that is reflected in the remarkable key figures for the German biotech industry published last week by the biotechnology industry association BIO Deutschland and the auditing firm Ernst & Young (EY).

Listed companies as growth drivers

According to the survey of 687 private German biotech companies, the German biotechnology sector grew faster than ever before in 2020. Including the 23 listed companies, sales in the industry as a whole rose by 36% to 6.49 billion euros. Via venture capital, IPOs, follow-on financing and convertible bonds, the listed biotechs raised a total of almost 3.1 billion euros. This represents an increase of 146% compared to the previous record year of 2018, with revenue generated by listed biotech companies contributing a total of around 50% to the strong overall result. Job growth across the biotech sector is also high at 10% overall. The industry counted 37,415 employees in 2020.

Considerably more investment in research and development

The companies invested 2.46 million euros in research and development (R&D), a 37% increase over the previous year. The growth in sales and R&D investment is explained largely, but not only, by the high demand for biotechnology products, vaccines and therapies due to the pandemic, according to the industry association. With an increase of just 1%, no change can be seen in the number of companies in Germany.
"We are pleased with the very positive development of sales and R&D investments in the biotechnology industry," said BIO Deutschland CEO Oliver Schacht. "However, the positive development of our industry is not only due to the high demand of biotechnological products to contain SARS-CoV-2. As a key technology, biotechnology offers important solutions for many areas of life, such as nutrition and agriculture as well as the production of detergents, plastics, textiles or cosmetics."

Current key figures of the German biotech industry

More than half of the companies are medical biotechs

Alexander Nuyken, EY's Life Sciences Strategy & Transactions Leader in the EMEIA region, shared this view: "The numbers of financings are exploding. This momentum must be used to sustainably strengthen the biotech location and to show that the industry not only consists of vaccine manufacturers, but also offers innovative solutions for environmental, energy or nutritional issues."

According to the survey by BIO Deutschland, 56% of the 710 companies assign themselves to the application field of medical biotechnology (therapeutics, diagnostics, etc.), 25% to the category of non-specific services, 10% to industrial biotechnology, 6% to bioinformatics and 3% to agrobiotechnology.